Welcome to 2020 and welcome back to Politics and Other Stuff. Fasten your seat belts. The ride this year will be very bumpy.
Lets’ get started with some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets:
- The Bills’ season is over, but it was fun while it lasted. For some reason, Saturday’s playoff game against Houston felt like the playoff loss to Cleveland in 1989 — which was followed by some incredible years of success. Who knows? The 2020 season is certainly something to look forward to.
- In case you haven’t heard, we are having a presidential election this year. Nominating petitions are in the streets for the New York Primary on April 28th. The first test of the campaigns, which for some is of dubious value, is the Iowa Democratic caucuses on February 3rd.
- Somehow the political parties need to get away from having a few small, unrepresentative states set the tone for presidential elections.
- It is sometimes pointed out that Iowa and New Hampshire have laws on the state books that say something like “if any other state schedules their primaries before or on the same day as … the primary in this state shall be moved up to…” Here’s an idea: bigger states, more representative of the national population, should pass laws saying that their primaries will be held on the same exact date as the Iowa caucuses, whenever that date may be.
- Oh yeah, and there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate concerning one Donald J. Trump.
- Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is a candidate for Democratic Convention Delegate supporting Senator Elizabeth Warren for President, along with Assemblyman Pat Burke, Fillmore District Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski, and Aurora Town Councilman Luke Wochensky. If there are other political presidential endorsements out there, please drop me a note at email@example.com.
- We are still waiting for Governor Andrew Cuomo to set the date for the special election in NY27 to select a replacement for Chris Collins. Most folks are anticipating April 28th. For an alternative, how about the date of the regular New York primaries, June 23rd?
- The Democrats have selected Nate McMurray as their congressional candidate. There is no consensus yet on a Republican candidate. Might it be that the Republicans and Conservatives have a difference of opinion about whom to support?
- Speaking of potential Republican congressional candidates, Investigative Post reporter Geoff Kelly has a great article posted concerning potential legal issues for Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw relating to his use of money from his state- reported campaign treasury for his exploratory activities concerning a run for Congress. State campaigns can accept corporate and union donations but federal campaigns cannot, making the use of state campaign funds generally illegal in a federal race.
- The next set of financial reports to the State Board of Elections is due on January 15th. Mychajliw’s report is likely to show spending for addition travel and donations outside of Erie County which suggest a connection to a congressional race. Look for his account, which contained $68,467 in July, to be considerably reduced in the new report.
- Mychajliw’s Deputy, Bryan Fiume, who was Lynne Dixon’s campaign manager in the race for county executive, has moved to the staff of the County Legislature.
- Dixon has landed at the Comptroller’s office, for the time being as the Comptroller’s secretary, and later, if the Legislature approves a staff reorganization, as associate deputy comptroller for communications and community relations (a new title in the office).
- Here’s a note from the “there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear” file: numerous sources at Erie Community College, from the maintenance staff on up, are reporting that the College’s Board of Trustees at an executive session on December 19th, attended by President Dan Hocoy, were looking to end Hocoy’s service with the College, perhaps prior to when his contract expires on June 30th. Whether the discussion related to the College’s enrollment and financial problems or some other matter is not clear.
- Hocoy is an at-will employee and may be terminated with or without cause, and final payments will vary based on circumstances. If he chooses to resign, Hocoy’s contract provides that he must give 180 days’ prior notice in order to be eligible for 90 days of severance pay. One hundred eighty days prior to June 30 (the end of his contract) was this past Friday. The severance pay would be worth approximately $58,000.
- Back to politics. There could be a Democratic primary in the 60th Senate District to replace Chris Jacobs, who is running for Congress. The endorsed candidate is Assemblyman Sean Ryan. Delaware Councilman Joel Feroleto is a possible candidate.
- In Ryan’s 149th Assembly District seat Jon Rivera, a county Public Works Department employee and the son of Niagara District Councilman David Rivera, has announced his candidacy. Other candidates may emerge.
- Up until recently former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra was planning on a race for Ryan’s seat in the State Assembly. Now he faces a different battle, another major health issue this time concerning kidney failure. Joel is a fighter, as demonstrated by his political victories and his beating back throat cancer in years past. Here’s wishing you well, Joel.
- There could be a Democratic primary for the Assembly 140th District to replace retiring Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Chairman Jeremy Zellner has dropped out of the race. Perennial candidate Kevin Stocker will not be endorsed but has been expected to force a primary regardless of who else is running — or maybe not. Stocker and his wife recently purchased a home on the waterfront in downtown Buffalo, miles outside of the 140th District. Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger, Councilmembers John Bargnesi and Bill Conrad, Kenmore Mayor Pat Mang and former County Legislator Lynn Marinelli are all discussing their possible candidacies with party committee members.
- With Michael Ranzenhofer retiring from the Senate’s 61st District, Democrats and Republicans have several potential candidates in the mix. Democrats include the 2018 candidate Joan Elizabeth Seamans, Monroe County resident Kim Smith and former Amherst Supervisor Susan Grelick. Republican County Legislator Ed Rath and former Assemblyman Ray Walter are exploring the race. Although this seat has been held by Republicans for decades, it is actually Democratic by party registration.
- Given the above noted interest in state legislative races, did I mention that the salary of state legislators will be $130,000 on January 1, 2021?
- Wondering if legislative candidates who seek the Working Families Party endorsement will, as asked in a Party questionnaire, commit to “avoid messaging that centers ‘taxpayers’ or ‘tax burdens’ and instead talk about ‘public funding’ and the public as a whole?”
- There is no State Supreme Court seat in play in 2020 at this time, but talk on the street is that Justice James Dillon may resign this spring, which would create a vacancy. City Court Judge Amy Martoche is a potential Democratic candidate. Gerald Greenan is looking for another run for Supreme Court, following his narrow loss last year.
- Here is some bad news: The Commission empowered with reviewing judicial salaries did not approve any raises for State Supreme Court judges in 2020, which may defer increases until 2024. So the salaries will remain at $210,900 annually, slightly above the state’s minimum wage rate (the judges’ salaries translate into $101.39 per hour). This will undoubtedly discourage many, many lawyers from seeking Supreme Court seats.
- Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case, a Republican, is running for re-election this year. Amherst lawyer Jeff Marion may be the Democratic candidate. County Court pays about $200,000 annually.
- Incumbent Erie County District Attorney John Flynn will run for re-election. There is no known opposition at this point. A bi-partisan endorsement could happen.
- Petitions for the June 23rd primary elections will hit the streets on February 25th.
A quick poll about preferences among presidential candidates – who do you prefer?